The origin of Space Invaders
The stories about how many games originated, both current and ancient, can become fascinating and truly curious when heard from their own creators. One of them is the one that has to do with Space Invaders, a game that was released in 1978 and that arose in a very particular way according to its author in a Netflix documentary called High Score.
In the late 1970s the world of video games was starting to take off and arcades were becoming more popular with young people. They were where they went in search of interactive stories that had managed to turn televisions into interactive screens thanks to arcade machines.
Of course, those first arcade games were light years away in technical matters when compared to the current proposals that we can even carry in our pocket through the smartphone, but it is logical due to the limitations of the hardware where they were run. But even so, at that time they were quite a revolution and millions of users were completely hooked on them. Thus sowing the germ that would lead many of them to dedicate themselves to that world and give birth years later to true gems of the world of video games.
But continuing with the history that interests us, in those years Tomohiro Nishikado considered how he could do from Breakout, the well-known Atari game where you have to bounce a ball on a mobile platform to destroy a series of bricks, a new video game. I wanted to take advantage of that base and idea to create a different title, but just as addictive. This is how a first battle title was born that, despite not achieving success, did served as a skeleton for what would become Space Invaders.
Tomohiro Nikishifo had started to hear about a movie released in 1977 that was causing a sensation. His name was Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). A film that would begin one of the most important sagas in all of history. Thanks to her, the author of Space Invaders had the idea of using droids as enemies, because his tests with tanks, planes and even soldiers had not managed to generate that interest that he expected in the players.
The problem is that while the Star Wars movie helped with the setting, the enemies still didn't quite appeal to users. So again, it was another movie that allowed Space Invaders to become the smash hit that it was: «The War of the Worlds »by HG Weels. This movie had always been in the head of Nishikado, who grew up with the idea that if there were ever an alien invasion, the enemies would be like giant octopuses.
So that idea about what an invasion by creatures from another planet would look like was the one that ended up shaping game enemies: octopuses, giant squid and crabs, in addition to the respective UFOs. Once he had the sketches on paper, he took the design into bit format and the final form of these invaders is the one you already know and has become an icon in the world of video games.
From the arcade to the first video game cartridge with Atari
That combination of ideas between Star Wars and The War of the Worlds allowed Nikishado to shape an arcade that became a mass phenomenon. It was the first great Japanese success in the industry and as it is said, it even caused a shortage of 100 yen coins that were used in arcades to play these machines.
With so much commotion it was logical that it would not go unnoticed by Atari, at that time a giant of the arcade machines that had the brilliant ideal of launching its own console and creating the first video game cartridge: Space Invaders. That sent console sales skyrocketing and the title became part of history.
As you can see, these weird octopuses, crabs, and squid aliens they arose from the stories that two films of the time proposed. A curious, but not unique, way to inspire a video game developer who made history with his title. Although we already warn you that there are many more like this, because at the end of the day it is about everyday things from day to day, what is read, heard or seen where all those things that we love later come from.
So, despite not having much logic for an octopus, a giant squid or a crab to arrive from outer space with the purpose of conquering us, we don't care. We have accepted that it is possible and the design of Spaces Invaders is just as we want. So let's enjoy what was also one of the first games where there was a strategy checked if you wanted to get the victory as you passed the level and everything got even more complicated. Because, although it seems like a simple game nowadays, we invite you to try the original arcade through an emulator. You still do not go past the first screen or rows of enemies.
*The article has been translated based on the content of https://eloutput.com/videojuegos/reportajes/space-invaders-origen-diseno-enemigos/ by eloutput.com
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